Team:Linkoping Sweden/Project/Context


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The Context

A food allergy is defined as ”an adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food”1.

The immune system is supposed to identify and destroy germs, like the bacteria or viruses that invade our bodies. What happens when a person has a food allergy is that the immune system targets a harmless food protein, an allergen, as something dangerous and attacks it. This exaggerated immune response is mediated by immunoglobulin antibodies (IgE antibodies) which are proteins produced by the immune system to fight foreign substances. IgE antibodies trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction, which can vary in severity from slight itchiness to potentially fatal anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, reduced blood pressure)1, 2. It is estimated that about 1- 2% of the general population has some sort of food allergy3.

A person living with a food allergy is under constant threat from hidden allergens in anything they consume, wear, or even breathe. It is generally considered that peanut allergies are amongst the most dangerous of allergies due to the severity of the symptoms despite minimal contact and the fact that peanut allergies are often life-long3, 4. As for general food allergy, peanut allergy effects about 1% of the general population. However, in the last decade there seems to have been an increase of peanut allergy among children both in the United States and Europe5, 6.

1. NIAID-sponsored expert panel, Boyce JA. Assa’ad A, Burks AW, Jones SM, Sampson HA, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States; report of the NIAID-sponsored Expert Panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010; 126: 1-58.
2. Murphy, K. Janeway´s Immunobiology. 8:th edition. New York: Garland science, 2011.
3. Young E, Stoneham MD, Petruckevitch A, Barton J, Rona R. A population study of food intolerance. Lancet. 1994; 343: 1127-30.
4. Hugh A.S. Peanut allergy: Emerging concepts and approaches for an apparent epidemic. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2007; 120: 491-503.
5. Scott H. US prevalence of self-reported peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy: 11-year follow-up. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2010; 125: 1322-26.
6. J.O. Hourihane, R. Aiken., R. Briggs., L.A. Gudgeon., K.E. Grimshaw., A. Dunngalvin., Roberts. S.R. The impact of government advice to pregnant mothers regarding peanut avoidance on the prevalence of peanut allergy in United Kingdom children at school entry. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007; 119: 1197-1202.

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